PloS one

An integrated epigenetic and genetic analysis of DNA methyltransferase genes (DNMTs) in tumor resistant and susceptible chicken lines.

PMID 18648519


Both epigenetic alterations and genetic variations play essential roles in tumorigenesis. The epigenetic modification of DNA methylation is catalyzed and maintained by the DNA methyltransferases (DNMT3a, DNMT3b and DNMT1). DNA mutations and DNA methylation profiles of DNMTs themselves and their relationships with chicken neoplastic disease resistance and susceptibility are not yet defined. In the present study, we analyzed the complexity of the DNA methylation variations and DNA mutations in the first exon of three DNMTs genes over generations, tissues, and ages among chickens of two highly inbred White Leghorn lines, Marek's disease-resistant line 6(3) and -susceptible line 7(2), and six recombinant congenic strains (RCSs). Among them, tissue-specific methylation patterns of DNMT3a were disclosed in spleen, liver, and hypothalamus in lines 6(3) and 7(2). The methylation level of DNMT3b on four CpG sites was not significantly different among four tissues of the two lines. However, two line-specific DNA transition mutations, CpG-->TpG (Chr20:10203733 and 10203778), were discovered in line 7(2) compared to the line 6(3) and RCSs. The methylation contents of DNMT1 in blood cell showed significant epimutations in the first CpG site among the two inbred lines and the six RCSs (P<0.05). Age-specific methylation of DNMT1 was detected in comparisons between 15 month-old and 2 month-old chickens in both lines except in spleen samples from line 7(2). No DNA mutations were discovered on the studied regions of DNMT1 and DNMT3a among the two lines and the six RCSs. Moreover, we developed a novel method that can effectively test the significance of DNA methylation patterns consisting of continuous CpG sites. Taken together, these results highlight the potential of epigenetic alterations in DNMT1 and DNMT3a, as well as the DNA mutations in DNMT3b, as epigenetic and genetic factors to neoplastic diseases of chickens.